Froome spat at, punched amid Tour ‘civil war’
CHRIS Froome's Grand Tour veneer has been bulletproof, but it's friendly fire that's threatening to shoot down the all-conquering Brit.
Froome, who currently has all three Grand Tour titles in the trophy cabinet, finds himself locked in a Tour de France war with chief lieutenant, Geraint Thomas.
And after years of repelling rival raids in three-week races, it's teammate Thomas who poses arguably the biggest danger Froome has faced for some time.
But on a day of controversy, Froome is also facing threats from the roadside.
One spectator was arrested by French police after running over and pushing the four-time Tour champ, who was also spat at by another fan.
Froome's teammates were booed most of the way up a packed Alpe d'Huez.
Vincenzo Nibali was cruelly denied the chance to contest the win when a police motorbike stopped in front of him to avoid hitting encroaching fans, causing him to crash with less than 5km remaining.
The Italian was last night taken to hospital with a suspected fractured vertebra.
Thomas was lost for words at the finish. The Welshman, who won the first mountain stage of his career to take the yellow jersey at La Rossiere on Wednesday, made it two in a row with another summit success on cycling's most famous road on Thursday.
He burst clear in the final metres to lead home Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet after the hardest day of the Tour - 175.5km and 5000m of climbing across three hors categorie peaks.
Thomas now holds a shock 1min39sec lead over Froome on general classification, with their "civil war" injecting a major dose of unexpected intrigue into the race.
"Honestly, I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. Not a chance in hell I thought I was going to win today," Thomas said.
"I don't know what to say. This is just unbelievable, can we just go to Paris now?
"I just followed Dumoulin, Bardet and Froome were attacking. I said yesterday this race is made for me now; today I can be happy for sure now.
"But this race is so hard. You never know how your body reacts. Like I said, I'm still riding for Froome, he is still the man, he knows how to ride for three weeks. Legend is a word that gets used a lot but he's the man. He's probably the best ever.
"I'm just going to enjoy it. Alpe d'Huez, man - speechless."
Team Sky's Colombian prodigy Egan Bernal - the youngest rider in the race - laid the eye-catching platform for Thomas.
The 21-year-old ripped an already-shrinking peloton apart up Alpe d'Huez, hauling in Nibali, Romain Bardet and Nairo Quintana after that trio had attacked.
Bernal admitted the plan was to set up Froome for the win, but Thomas' outstanding form has thrown Sky a curveball.
The fact Thomas' two stage wins have come via summit finishes, with only one more to come, provides the best evidence that this is a man in striking form.
Not so Rigoberto Uran, who's hellish Tour is over. Last year's runner-up abandoned after injuries sustained on the cobbles on Stage 9 proved impossible to deal with in the mountains.
Andre Greipel, Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen became the latest sprinters to pull out when it became clear they weren't going to make the time cut on Stage 12.
Twenty-two riders have already abandoned the Tour with nine stages still to come.
After a mountain trilogy in the Alps, Friday's Stage 13 returns to flatter ground in a relief for many, with a 169.5km journey from Bourg d'Oisans to Valence